Globe vs. Map: Which Should YOU Be Charting?

Once again, it’s April, and you know what that means – it’s time to dust off the old compass and start re-charting all your well-worn geographical aides for accuracy. And whether 2009 is the year you focus on coastlines and waterways or state borders and city limits, you no doubt find yourself positing the same question you were confronted with a scant 12 months ago: should I display my new chartings in globe or map form?

e_cartographerIt’s the cartographer’s quandary that has plagued the world population ever since Columbus disproved the flat-earth theory in 1492, thereby opening the door for an alternative to the widely accepted 2-D map. And while globes were originally predicted to be nothing more than a flash in the pan, their inherent roundness has, over the years, proven quite useful. Certainly, in today’s modern society we can no longer agree that these bulbous spheres of water and land are, as Ben Franklin put it, “merely the bastard maps of heretics, witches and rich eccentrics.”

Still, a rounded globe is not for everyone. For all their flash and visual appeal, a trusty map can be just as useful (if not more so). So, if this April has you considering jumping from mapping to globing, or vice versa, here are the facts you need to consider before making the switch:

User Interface: While a traditional flat map is easy enough to use, most experts agree the spinny-ness factor of the globe makes it the hands-down winner in terms of user-friendliness. Rather than waste a bunch of time shuffling through dozens of papers every time you need to move from Algeria to Zimbabwe, globe users can easily switch back and forth with a simple push of the sphere.

Compatibility: While globes may boast a sleeker design, they remain the minority geographical aide (approximately 10 percent market saturation). As such, if you frequently collaborate with friends to synch differing portions of an international border or mountain range, then the more-common map will likely help you avoid those frustrating borderline disconnects and other garbled transfers. Of course, if you prefer the challenge and creativity enjoyed from charting the whole of earth on your own, then a globe may still be your better bet.

Price: If price is a concern for you, then you’re probably going to stick to mapping. Simply put, a large, flat sheet of yellowing paper and some ink pens are far cheaper than all those sleek components needed to construct a quality globe (plastic, colored dye, rental time at a molding plant, etc.). Start throwing in bells and whistles like topographical dimensions, and an expensive globe can easily cost you thousands of dollars more than a comparably simple map.

Main Usage: Obviously, people use geographical aides for different purposes. For example, if you use your geo-aides to cruise the whole wide world (WWW), then a globe will provide a simpler, big-picture view for your travels. Conversely, if you’re more of a close-to-home kind of person, then the flexibility afforded by differing flat map sizes will let you spread your sheets across the table and ultimately get more work done.

In conclusion, globes are typically better suited for the visually creative traveler – people like jetsetters, touring musicians and the Harlem Globetrotters. Alternatively, those who crave familiarity and more choices in charting sizes and dimensions will likely prefer the stripped-down, yet functional package of a traditional map. Common mappers include corporate cartography teams, mileage counters and war generals who plan their battles by pushing tiny models of soldiers and submarines across flat depictions of pertinent battle grounds.


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